Kung bakit umuulan ngayon ng bato sa EDSA

kuha ni Atom Araullo

Kung bakit ang mga sundalong Kano binabahay ng gubyerno sa pamamagitan ng VFA, tapos ang maraming mahihirap walang bubungan sa ulunan.

Kung bakit habang bilyon-bilyon ang kita ng mga matataas na upisyal sa jueteng, kickbacks at pangongotong; pinapalayas naman sa mga tahanan nila ang mga mamamayan.

Kung bakit may Pangulo tayong hasyendero – na sa kasalukuyan ay kumakain ng hotdog sa New York habang ibinabaon pa tayong lalo sa paghihirap bunsod ng mga kundisyong kasama sa mga nilimos niyang ayuda kuno – ay lubhang napakarami pa ring magsasaka ang walang lupang sinasaka.

Kung bakit kahit anong kayod ang gawin ng mga manggagawa, di pa rin mapagkasya ang kakarampot na kinikita para ipangbili ng pagkain, pangpa-aral sa mga anak at pangbayad sa upa sa tagpi-tagping bahay sa lugar na gaya ng Sitio San Roque sa may tabi ng Trinoma.

Kung bakit paparami ang bilang ng mga sanggol na inaabandona kung saan saan at di maawat ang paglaganap ng nakamamatay na dengue, sakit na puro mahihirap din naman ang puntirya; ay wala pa ring habas ang pagkaltas ng pamahalaan sa badyet na nakalaan para sa serbisyo sosyal.

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit maraming ‘iskwater.’

Ito rin ang dahilan kung bakit di papatinag ang mga mamamayan ng Sitio San Roque sa pagtatanggol sa mga tahanan nila.

Makatwirang paghahangad ng katarungang panlipunan. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit umuulan ngayon ng bato sa EDSA.

Mga kuha ni Kenneth Guda

Curing a defective Romulo

Malacanang has reportedly “cured” Alberto Romulo’s “defective” appointment as Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary by simply antedating his appointment papers from August 10, 2010 to July 1, 2010.

But while defective appointments such as that of Romulo’s can easily be cured with just a slight of hand from Malacanang, can we ever cure a defective Romulo?

A relic from the previous Macapagal-Arroyo regime, Romulo was never a stranger to earth shaking controversies that rocked his leadership at the Foreign Affairs Department.

Beheadings

It was during Romulo’s term at the DFA that not one, but six overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were executed abroad. The six OFWs are: Antonio Alvesa, Sergio Aldana, Miguel Fernandez, Wilfredo Bautista, Reynaldo Cortez and Jenifer Beduya.

All of them were beheaded largely because of the DFA’s patented mishandling of their cases. In the case of Beduya, for example, the DFA only provided him with an interpreter and not a lawyer during the initial and most crucial stages of his trial.

Beduya was beheaded in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia October 2008.

Passport price increase

Romulo is also responsible for the meteoric rise in the cost of Philippine Passports. This was due to the onerous contract entered into by Romulo for the new electronic-Passports.

Migrante International, the largest alliance of OFW groups worldwide, has assailed the P857 Million E-Passport contract as “illegal, unethical and grossly overpriced“.

“Romulo has squandered millions of pesos in corruption via the e-passport project when the DFA had failed to provide welfare services, protection and assistance to OFWs, especially those in distress and facing death row,” Migrante said.

Thanks to Romulo’s onerous E-Passport contract, Passport costs shot up to P950 to P1,200 from P550 to P750 in the Philippines. Passports prices abroad  were higher and went up to as much as thrice the previous rates.

Budget cuts

Notwithstanding the left and right allegations of criminal negligence on the plight of distressed OFWs;  a cool, calm and collected  Romulo didn’t even raise any objection to the Palace instigated budget cut to the funds intended for helping OFWs abroad.

When Malacanang wanted to slash more than 50 percent to the combined budget of the Assistance to Nationals Fund (ATN) and Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) of the DFA, all Romulo can say was:

“In the spirit of teamwork and (because of the) gaping deficit…we abide by the decision of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to cut our budget… “

He said he is fully supportive of the President’s ‘austerity program’ to reduce the budget deficit “that’s why we are not going to ask for any increase in our budget.”

Never mind if the drastic budget cuts would spell doom to the more than 7,000 jailed; 10,000 stranded and 108 OFWs on deathrow.

Curing Romulo

Romulo, with his defective appointment finally ‘cured’, can now sleep soundly at night knowing that he can no longer be charged with usurpation of authority and misrepresentation for his acts from July 1 until August 9, 2010.

But then again, can an antedated appointment ever cure a defective Romulo?

If we are to ask an entire army of OFWs, whose condition has dramatically deteriorated with Romulo at the DFA’s helm, I think the answer is NO.

The anti-OFW in Noynoy rears its ugly head

With the drastic slash in the funds intended to help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in distress, President Noynoy Aquino has signaled his administration’s total abandonment of the rights and welfare of millions of Filipino migrant workers abroad.

It was learned during Wednesday’s budget hearing in Congress that Malacanang has trimmed down the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) allocation from P100 million to P27 million in the proposed 2011 national budget.

The LAF is used to pay mainly for the lawyers and interpreters who are hired by the government to defend OFWs jailed abroad, most especially for those who are languishing on death row.

Thus, the Malacanang instigated P73 million budget cut is a death blow to OFWs who are in desperate need of legal help from the government.

Currently, there are more than seven thousand jailed OFWs worldwide and about 180  more are awaiting execution in various death rows overseas.

If the observable indifference of Philippine posts to their plight is bad news enough for them and their families here in the country, it would be unspeakable if they hear about Noynoy’s plan to give our inutile embassy and consular officials more reason to abandon them!

Noynoy should rethink his plan to chop the DFA’s Legal Assistance Fund.

The move is patently illegal as it goes against the provision in the Migrant Workers Act that states P100 million are to be allocated for the LAF annually.

It is also immoral as the drastic budget cut completely flies in the face of more than ten million OFWs, whose “needs” Noynoy  had just wanted the DFA and other concerned government agencies to be more “responsive” to.

Is this what you mean by being “responsive” Mr. President? By chopping the only lifeline our hapless , desperate and locked up kababayans overseas have?

Daang Matuwid?

President Noynoy Aquino: “Kayo ang boss ko”

Stuck in Iraq and a hard place

In a memorandum dated July 20, 2010, United States Colonel Richard Nolan of the Central Command’s Contracting Command, has ordered all contractors inside Iraq to send home all workers in their employ who came from countries that prohibits work and travel to Iraq.

Nolan cited an incident in the past weeks wherein eight such workers – “third country nationals” according to his memo – were discovered to have been abandoned by their employers at various contractor controlled camps across Iraq.

“Employing individuals with passports which state “not valid in Iraq” violates both host nation and third country laws. CENTCOM is currently aware that the Philippine and the Nepalese Governments prohibit its citizens from traveling to Iraq. There may be other countries. It is the contractor’s responsibility that it is not employing people from countries prohibited from entry to Iraq” said Nolan in his memo.

He then gave all contractors 20 days to ensure that their employees comply with both US and international laws and that they understand their redeployment obligations under their contract.

The sudden pull-out order resurrected calls for the government to consider lifting its deployment ban. The Philippines imposed the ban on 2004 after the kidnapping of Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz by Iraqi militants.

Emmanuel Geslani, consultant to the country’s major recruitment agencies, has urged the Aquino administration to “partially lift” the ban if only to allow those who are already employed in Iraq to continue with their work.

“It would be a nightmare for the new administration”,  Geslani said if an estimated 15,000 Filipino workers are repatriated back to the country jobless.

Quite a number of Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) netizens seem to agree with Geslani’s assessment. ABS-CBN News, which carried the story on the pull-out order, received several comments from OFWs, who appears to be either currently in Iraq or has relatives working in Iraq, supporting the call to lift the ban.

anongsaymo, a Certified Public Accountant working in another warzone, Afghanistan (deployment there is also banned by the government by the way), minced no words when he commented:

It is never a crime to work in a dangerous place, so you could feed yourself and your family, when your own country cannot provide jobs for its own people.

If the ban continues, and you send 15,000 Pinoys home and jobless, you can now call yourselves IRRESPONSIBLE people, IRRESPONSIBLE leaders, IRRESPONSIBLE fathers and mothers of this country who do not realize the consequences, the number of mouths who might not get fed, and the number of children who will not get to school.

Whoever is/are behind this, probably guys who rides a Mercedes, sits in a big leather chair with a shiny wooden table with the airconditioning on, and his/her secretary to assist, they must have got big guts to ban us when they cannot even provide good paying jobs for their people! So lift the ban! Let us work for ourselves and for our family, coz it is never your asses that are in the battlefield, it’s ours!

You dont even have a consulate! Coz the truth is you dont really care!

bluedennis7789, meanwhile, couldn’t help but express his disappointment with the pull-out order and the continuing deployment ban. He said his father is an OFW in Iraq for six years already and that his family is relying solely on his father’s earnings.

I am deeply saddened by this news. I already knew it last Friday when my father called me that he and other Filipino workers would be sent back here in the Philippines. My father stayed there for almost 6 straight years already. I was able to graduate in college because of him. I am currently working but still I cannot sustain the expenses of our family. We are much depending on my father. That is why we are shocked by the news. I am sure a lot of families feel the same way. Every time I ask my father on what is the situation there he would always say that he is very safe there. I think his 6 straight years’ experience there is enough to say that the Filipinos are doing well there despite the fact that Iraq is not yet at peace. I am suggesting the government to lift the ban for at least 3 months. It is because it is shocking news and the families here are not ready for that kind of news. Maybe, it would ease the burden of the families if the government can talk with the US government to allow for at least 3 months suspension of the ban. If only I am thinking of myself I would rather want my father go home because I missed him so much but then I think of what the future awaits. My father is already 46 years old and I think it would be difficult for him to find another job. I have younger siblings who are still studying and my family will be suffering because of this situation.

dennis

Some OFWs couldn’t contain their disdain at the Philippine government’s stance on the brewing crisis. The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has reportedly welcomed the US army’s decision to send home OFWs currently in Iraq.  The official has also ruled out the possibility of lifting the ban saying that the situation in Iraq is still “dangerous.”

“We’ve always asked [US and other countries] to respect our ban. We have always asked them to please help us because delikado nga sa Iraq (it’s dangerous in Iraq). They’ve never been heeded until now, when they’re winding down their operations,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos said.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), meanwhile, has assured those who will be displaced a start-up capital loan of P10,000.00 and alternative job postings in another country.

But OFW tag-hirap had this to say: Napaka imposible po!

uuwi po kami at bibigyan nyo kami ng trabaho? yung mga nandyan nga po sa pilipinas walang trabaho eh. at kung magkakaroon man ng trabaho para samin po diyan, masasahuran nyo po ba kami ng tulad ng sinasahod namin dito? mabibigyan nyo ba kami ng tirahan na libre, pagkain na libre? umuwi nalang kami para magnegosyo? kaya nga po kami andito para magipon ng pang negosyo. kasi alam namin na di naman pang-habang buhay dito ang trabaho, ang habol lang po namin ay ang pagkakataon na kumita ng pera na pang nenegosyo rin po namin dyan sa pinas pagbalik namin.

yun po ang katotohanan. bibigyan po ng trabaho talaga? lahat kami? magpakatotoo po tayo. wag po panay sulat sa hangin.

Surprise! Nepal lifts ban

But while the Philippines continues to stand pat on its policy to prohibit Filipinos from traveling to Iraq, the Nepalese government has moved to lift the ban on their nationals entering the country.

Upon hearing the news of the US army’s pull-out order, Nepalese Foreign secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai, based on reports, immediately summoned US ambassador to Nepal Scott H DeLisi to discuss the situation, as more than 30,000 Nepali workers are currently staying “illegally” inside Iraq.

And after assurances were made by the US that they will retain the Nepali workers in spite of the pull-out order, Nepal decided to lift its six year old deployment ban. To recall, Nepal banned its citizens from entering Iraq after 12 Nepalis were executed by radical militants in August 2004.

Stuck in Iraq and a hard place

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has yet to speak on this issue that stands to affect more than 15,000 Filipinos in Iraq, not to mention the thousands more in the country who survive on their toils.

That the pull-out order has been in effect for more than a week, the Aquino administration’s silence towards the looming crisis is downright disturbing. Thousands of our breadwinner kababayans there stand to lose their jobs in a matter of weeks and yet not a whimper of reply from the Malacanang.

Its deafening silence, however, betrays the reprehensible arrogance on the part of the Aquino administration most especially those in the labor and foreign affairs departments. That they even lauded the US’s move despite the alarming level of unemployment in the country boggles the mind and speaks volumes of their utter indifference to the affected OFWs’ plight and that of their families.

It is as if they have anything sustainable and long-term to offer the 15,000 souls that are set to be sent back to the country. It is not surprising that their paltry tender of P10,000 start-up capital and job slots in Qatar or elsewhere were outrightly rejected and was even ridiculed by the OFWs themselves.

But then again, it is most certain that the snowballing clamor for the government to lift the deployment ban, aggravated further by Nepal’s decision to lift theirs, is having Philippine labor and foreign affairs officials scratching their heads. They are stuck between Iraq and a hard place, literally.

But the government has no one to blame but themselves.

The farcity of the RP deployment ban

We have to understand that the so-called ‘deployment ban’ was nothing more than a farce, a knee-jerk reaction by the Arroyo government to the Angelo dela Cruz crisis back in 2004. It was imposed by the the Arroyo regime to douse cold water to the growing international pressure for it to pull-out the Filipino armed contingent in Iraq in exchange for the life of dela Cruz.

When the US invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003, former President Gloria Arroyo was among the very first world leaders to join the US led Coalition of the Willing. It subsequently committed Filipino boots on the ground to aid the US in its unjust and illegal war of aggression against the Iraqi people.

Also, it must be noted that the Arroyo government imposed the ban because of its desperation to portray an image among the Filipino people that it was on top of the situation amid extreme pressure from Washington for Arroyo not to even consider pulling-out Filipino troops in Iraq.

The deployment ban’s farcity was immediately validated when the number of Filipinos in Iraq continued to rise despite the standing government policy.

It would be remembered that when dela Cruz was kidnapped in Iraq on July 8, 2004, Filipinos there numbered only at 4,000. But when another OFW, Roberto Tarongoy, was kidnapped a year later, the number increased two-fold!

And so plenty more have either been killed, maimed and injured inside the war zones of Iraq in the years that followed. Recently, after the US decided finally to “heed” the Philippine’s deployment ban according to DFA’s Conejos, we now have 15,000 Filipinos braving bullets, bombs and abductions on a daily basis in Iraq!

Filipinos have managed to sneak into Iraq despite the stamps on their passports that say “Not valid to Iraq” and the government couldn’t care less. All they are concerned about are the moneys the OFWs continue to pour in the country in the form of their remittances. Whether the dollars came from the sweltering plantations in Sabah, Malaysia, or inside Iraq’s constantly bombarded Green Zone, it doesn’t matter. So long as it continues to come in to buoy our ever sinking economy afloat.

In short, the deployment ban, which DFA’s Conejos so ridiculously prides himself with, is just ink in one’s passport and nothing more.

So Filipinos should not fall into the trap and engage in the fruitless debate on whether to lift the ban or not.

We should focus on the heart of the issue: the sad fact that there are 15,000 Filipinos who are moving heaven and earth as we speak just so they can stay longer in war torn Iraq.  Hindi baleng kahit kalahati ng katawan nila sa Iraq ay nasa hukay na dahil sa peligro, basta’t may maipadala lang na pera para sa pamilyang umaasa sa Pilipinas.

Our struggling kababayans in Iraq mirror the real state of the nation today. We truly are stuck in Iraq and a hard place – a situation where choosing to risk death in a far away war zone becomes a wiser decision than slugging it out in a place where breakfast, lunch and dinner is a constant unwinnable battle for the majority of the people.